As Wargamer’s resident miniatures guy, I was very happy to accept a review sample of Archon Studios’ Scales and Ales Tavern, a huge scenery set that builds a multi-storey DnD inn. But upon receiving a box the size of a coffin and the weight of a baby elephant, reality set in: I had no use for the thing.
I love building and painting miniatures for the sake of building and painting miniatures: I have plenty of DnD miniatures that have never once been used in a DnD game. I collect many more Warhammer 40k factions than I play. But I can’t hold onto a model building the size of a microwave oven just because it looks nice, at least not as long as I live in Britain, which has the smallest houses in Europe.
But you know who is allowed to have enormous plastic toys for no good reason? Children. And it so happens I have an eight year old daughter. So I suggested we could build the kit, and she could have it as a dollhouse.
“Where are your clippers, daddy?” She responded immediately. Not only was she interested, she was intent. “Do you even have clippers, dad?” she asked indignantly, when I didn’t immediately produce them from behind my ear. Before long we were snipping away, cutting the pieces from sprues, and stacking up little piles of bits.
That evening, we cut out pieces. The next evening, we cut out pieces. More evenings followed and more pieces were cut. All told, it took about ten person-hours to cut out, clean up, and assemble the components into the tavern.
The Dungeons and Lasers terrain line is modular, allowing you to mix and match pieces like a nerdy, low-resolution LEGO kit. Floor tiles are regularly sized and can be linked together by pressing clips into their bases. Small holes between tiles, and in the centre of larger tiles, allow you to peg wall pieces into place. Edge-clips both tidy up the outline of your floors and allow second and subsequent storeys of a building to sit snugly on top of foundations.
This was my first time using the Dungeons and Lasers system, and I was impressed: it just works. The clips have such a snug connection that, if you just want to lay out a 2D dungeon map, you can do it without glue. It was necessary to glue together the large floors of the kit to stop them falling apart, but the results are now rock solid, and I’ve left the walls unglued to make renovations and painting easier.
While I followed the instructions for the most part, I swapped the placement of a few pieces from the default build. As the plans would have it, one stairwell goes from the ground floor up to a single second storey balcony that is entirely cut off from the rest of the floor. Then there’s a door leading out of the second storey into thin air, which I initially built as per the plans until my daughter chastised me about OSHA violations.
“This probably isn’t going to fit my horses”, she said, as the first storey fit into place. It might have low ceilings for a dollhouse, but the building is massive as a piece of gaming terrain. In a game of Warhammer 40k you could hide an Astra Militarum Baneblade tank behind the long edge, an Imperial Knight behind the short edge, and still have room spare for a Space Marine Combat Patrol.
As soon as the building was finished, my daughter populated it with cats. She is somewhat cat-oriented. I have hopes that, one day, she may be amenable to playing a Tabaxi in DnD. Until then, the Scales and Ales tavern has become a luxury cat café for dozens of plastic and wooden felines, hosting a veritable telenovella of dramas, medical emergencies, pregnancies, love-confessions, and so on that my daughter invents for them.
In terms of suitability for DnD, I’m totally sold on the Dungeons and Lasers range, but not necessarily on this build from this kit. Gluing the floor tiles together is necessary, but robs you of the modularity that’s a major selling point for the range. And as you can’t realistically add or remove layers to the building without disturbing the miniatures standing on them, the practical benefit of constructing the whole building at once is quite limited.
But just as with the best LEGO sets, you don’t have to follow the instructions. This is a bumper kit with enough pieces to construct several large buildings for wargaming, or a huge single-storey dungeon layout. If Dungeons and Lasers ever adds ruin sprues to this range, it will be absolutely perfect for anyone playing Mordheim, Frostgrave, or other fantasy miniature games featuring urban ruins.
Building the kit with my daughter was a great experience. DnD miniatures are dolls, albeit very nerdy ones, and building a fantasy dollhouse was something that my daughter and I could get excited about together. Now I’ve just got to paint the big bastard thing. Fortunately, as Artis Opus points out, there’s always drybrushing:
There are many other options for constructing dungeons and buildings for DnD and wargames, ranging from DIY, to papercraft, to big resin kits like Dwarven Forge. Then there’s the wonderful world of 3D printers – there are a variety of modular dungeon tile systems, including the open-source OpenLOCK, and Fat Dragon’s Dragonlock. If you’ve considered getting a 3D printer but have been put off by cost, we’ve picked out some great Amazon Prime Big Deals on 3D Printers that are live until the end of October 11.
Love to build? Check out Wargamer’s guide to the best LEGO sets for adults.